Effective Toilets

One thing I love about the Europe in which I lived is the practicality of concepts and mentalities.  The main example of this which comes to mind right now is that of toilets.  Public toilets, specifically, I mean.

At my campus in Toulouse, France, was my first experience of the idea of one set of sinks for toilets of both genders.  There were the individual stalls, as in any US bathroom, though with doors and walls that closed off each stall more effectively from outsiders’ views.  However, each stall was labelled as for male or female users. Then, over to the side, was the countertop sink area.  Just one sink area for everyone to use.  It was practical, efficient, and sufficient.  It was odd, at first, walking into the same bathroom as the guys, and even talking with them while in line in the bathroom and at the sinks.  But I never felt uncomfortable, because I still got my own, private little space to do my private business.  The privacy part was kept even more private than the stalls in the US, where we have nonsense structures that require us to avert our eyes whenever we enter the bathroom, because we get that one-inch-wide view all along the length of either side of every stall door, and, whether we like it or not, leaves us knowledgeable of the color of everyone’s underwear.  (No joke here.  We totally have trained ourselves to look away as fast as possible, and also not to remember what we see, but it doesn’t change the fact that we totally see it and on a regular basis.)  (Also, the urinals were still kept for the men, the  private trash bins by the toilet were kept for the women’s stalls, and girls didn’t have to worry about guys urinating on the seats or floors around where we’re dropping our pants.)

When I was in Germany most recently, I was using the toilet in the airport just before my flight.  When I walked out of the stall to go to the sink (in the women’s bathroom), a male cleaner walked into the bathroom with an indifference nonchalance.  He walked to the trash bin and emptied it to his cart outside the bathroom, and refreshed the bag.  Then he swept the floor a bit and wiped down the sinks, checking the soap and paper towels.  Not one person flinched during this process.  No one was embarrassed.  But there were other women in the bathroom, coming and going as though all was well and normal.  And, for some reason, I was delighted and warmed at that fact.  I think I even giggled when I left the bathroom, because I was imagining how people back in the US might have responded (and, potentially, panicked like no other).  Again, just like in France, he wasn’t in the actual privacy portion of the bathroom, so it didn’t really matter so much that he was there.  He was only passing through – it wasn’t like he was hanging out in there all day or anything.  He cleaned up and got out, just as he probably did in the men’s restroom.  So what that he was a man?

In the US, our restrooms are shut down from use whenever someone of the opposite gender cleans them.  And that really sucks at times.  Really.  Because, sometimes, you’ve just got to go.

However, one restaurant in Houston gives me hope for our city (if not quite our country yet).  It has regular-looking entrances for the men’s and women’s restrooms, on opposite ends of this one wall.  Upon entering either of those doors, one will discover a beautiful wall of sinks between those two entrance doors.  That is, both doors lead to the same room of sinks.  From that room, continuing in the initial direction, there is a second door, which will lead into the separate-gendered toilet rooms (men’s and women’s).  And, in those, the individual stalls are like their own little rooms, with real privacy to handle one’s business.  (None of that eye-averting necessary.)  It’s wonderful.  I ate at this restaurant with my dad once, and he and I specifically left the restroom from the opposite doors – he went through the women’s and I through the men’s – so that we might surprise the person with us at dinner.  She didn’t notice, of course, but we had fun being rebellious in a way that didn’t actually matter.  😛

Anyway, I really like that kind of bathroom, and I really like the general mentality of efficiency I have found wherever I have lived (and visited) in Europe.

Post-a-day 2018

 

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Toilets self-proclaiming status

Tonight in the wine garden at the rodeo, we had a unique scene occur.  I was standing in line for the toilets – a very long line that doubled in size just in the time I waited in it.  I found myself wondering how the men’s toilets were.  They were part of the same trailers as the women’s toilets.  There was even a door on the inside that connected the men’s to the women’s toilets within a trailer.  Well, two guys come waltzing out of the men’s toilets in the trailer next to ours, and declare ‘Hey, we’re unisex here; you can use these, ladies.’ A small, but somewhat mad dash ensues by ladies that had been a ways back in our line.

They say that…” I begin, but end there, for my conflicting thoughts couldn’t agree upon an end to the sentence.  It boiled down to the question of who would be liable for the issue of inappropriate bathroom use by the opposite gender – because I know that it is actually a thing – and the matter of 1) if anyone actually cared, and, if so, 2) who would be the one/s to correct/stop the behavior (aka enforce the gender rule of the toilets).

Sure enough, within moments after my statement, a grounds service person heads calmly up to the men’s bathroom and the line of ladies standing at it, and tells the ladies that they can’t use the men’s bathroom.  By the time I was going into the trailer, – by the way, these are fancy trailers with flushing toilets and hand washing and even paper towels – the man had almost persuaded the likely drunk final three ladies from the men’s toilets.  Though, I’m not sure he managed to get them out before they used the toilets.  We could see straight into the men’s bathroom while the door was being held open, and it cracked me up, because there were two women standing in the walkway-type area of the trailer, next to the stalls, the worked outside the trailer, failing to convince them that it wasn’t okay for them to be in there, and a man’s head and cowboy hat 100% clear above one of the stall doors, while he clearly was using the toilet within the stall, but still chatting with the people outside of his stall, who were standing in the bathroom (i.e. the ladies), plus the man outside the trailer.

The whole thing just cracked me up.

Also, there were only two or three stalls (I think two) in the men’s section, whereas the women’s section had five stalls.  I appreciated that fact.

Post-a-day 2018